LEEDS UNITED top-scorer Kemar Roofe believes this season’s Championship is the toughest yet.
A trio of Yorkshire clubs lead the way in the third tier after 15 games with Sheffield United sitting proudly at the summit.
Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds and Middlesbrough are two points adrift, as are Norwich City in fourth place.
After that, just six points separate West Bromwich Albion and Derby County in the final play-off places from Sheffield Wednesday in 15th place.
With two rounds of fixtures remaining before the next international break, Roofe is expecting plenty of fiercely competitive matches as promotion rivals look to steal a march on each other.
“This is a tough division,” Roofe, now in his third season at Elland Road, told The Yorkshire Post. “Everyone keeps saying it – that it keeps getting tougher every year and it is probably true as well.
Of course, we are disappointed because we have dropped a few (points) ourselves. But we are still up there so we must be doing something right.Leeds United’s Kemar Roofe
“That is why everyone enjoys this league, you can’t predict any game. You have to work really hard just for a point, as we showed against Nottingham Forest (last Saturday).
“It is why everyone likes this league. Everyone has been dropping points. Some are surprising teams with getting points and climbing up the table.
“Of course, we are disappointed because we have dropped a few ourselves. But we are still up there so we must be doing something right.”
Leeds have spent more time on top of the table this season than any of their Championship peers.
Bielsa’s men hit the front the first time in August and have had three different spells in pole position.
Competition, however, is fierce with October alone having seen Boro and the Blades also enjoy a stint at the summit. Darren Moore’s West Brom ended last month leading the way.
Roofe, despite missing six games through injury, has played a big part in United’s encouraging start with his half-dozen goals meaning he leads Mateusz Klich by one in the Elland Road goalscoring charts.
His latest effort was hugely controversial, replays clearly showing the 25-year-old guided the ball into the net with his arm when equalising against Forest.
It brought a storm of criticism his way but for Roofe it was merely the culmination of a memorable week that brought not only two goals but also the birth of his second child.
“The baby was born on the 25th (Thursday),” he added. “A girl. My head is spinning, it had been a crazy week. Three games, two goals and the birth of my second child.”
Working out the ramifications of each week’s results in a division as concertinaed as this season’s Championship can lead to sleepless nights, as many supporters will surely attest.
Roofe, however, insists the new arrival has not been keeping him awake at night.
“I am in the spare room,” said the forward with a smile. “To be honest, I keep what is going on off the pitch and on the pitch separate. They are two different worlds.
“As long as I get my preparation right and focus on the game, that is what counts. I got enough sleep (last week) and prepared right for the games.”
Roofe’s two goals against Ipswich and Forest certainly back up that last point.
He has two more opportunities to add to his tally before next month’s third international break of the season, as Leeds travel to Wigan Athletic on Sunday and then West Brom the following weekend.
“Promotion is the aim,” added Roofe, a £3m signing from Oxford United during the summer of 2016. “We say it every year and we try and do it every year. But, hopefully, we go one better this season and achieve it.”
A big part of this week’s preparations at Thorp Arch is focused on defending set-pieces, Forest’s Jack Robinson the latest opposition player to breach the United back-line from either a corner or free-kick during last Saturday’s draw.
“We don’t want to be conceding goals, full stop,” added Roofe ahead of a trip to the DW Stadium that could bring a return for Barry Douglas. “But we have been conceding a bit too many from set pieces.
“It seems like a recurring thing so it is something we need to work on.
“That is what we are doing this week. We are going to work on our weaknesses. Hopefully, we can do that and then show that (improvement) against Wigan.”